A Driving Instructor's Blog

Driving Tests

What’s all this about, then? I’m getting hits on the search term “aa cockpit drill “.

Assuming it isn’t something to do with flying, and people who can’t use search engines properly, just bear in mind the following.

  • the cockpit drill is not usually assessed as part of the driving test (though it could be)
  • it’s got bugger all to do with the “AA” or anyone else’s name
  • the AA doesn’t have its own version
  • nor should anyone else – and if they do, it isn’t “official”
  • all the cockpit drill does is push you towards driving safely and under control
  • it doesn’t really matter what order you do it in as long as the final result means you are sitting comfortably and can see easily all around you

Commonsense, however, suggests that the cockpit drill is most effectively completed as follows:

doors >> leg reach >> arm reach >> mirrors >> seatbelt >> head restraint

  • shut the doors properly
  • for leg reach, you want to be able to push the clutch all the way down to the floor without stretching
  • for arm reach, you want to be able to hold the 10 to 2 position with a slight bend at the elbows so your arms don’t get tired – a good way to gauge this is to reach out over the steering wheel (whilst sitting normally) and your wrists should rest on top of the steering wheel
  • for the mirrors, you do not want to see half the car – nor do you want to be unable to see the car at all
  • don’t forget the head restraint with the seatbelt (two safety devices together)

I say “commonsense” simply because there’s no point adjusting your seat after your mirrors, because your head position will change. And you’ll need to fiddle with the leg and arm reach together to get the best position, because moving your back forward after your legs are positioned might move your legs a bit so you’ll have to re-adjust. But as long as people get there in the end, it doesn’t matter. A half-decent ADI should be able to run through this for the first time in a few minutes – then they can get on with teaching people to drive. It just needs a recap for the first few lessons until the pupil automatically gets themselves ready each time.

I should also point out that holding the wheel at the 10 to 2 position isn’t mandatory and you won’t fail because of not doing it as long as your steering is in control.

It isn’t rocket science.

What is the official cockpit drill?

There’s no such thing. Just make sure everything is adjusted properly and your seatbelt is on and you’re there.


In the Midlands we didn’t have a huge fall of snow, but on Monday evening it was as bad as it got. An additional problem has been the freezing temperatures overnight causing slush to freeze solid.

I’ve had a test booked every morning this week – and I have another tomorrow. The three so far have all been cancelled and the test centre has already told me tomorrow’s will be as well because of the low temperatures (that’s good of them because they say if I cancel now they’ll put me on the ‘bad weather’ list so the pupil doesn’t have to pay and I don’t have to waste my time turning up when it isn’t going ahead).

On the one hand it is costing me a bloody fortune. Four tests (2 hour bookings) and 4 hours of beginner lessons means nearly £300 lost income!

But on the other hand those pupils nearing test standard have benefited greatly from being able to drive on snow and see how easy it is to skid if you drive or brake even a little too quickly.